Sunday, February 9, 2014

Book Review: Fantasy Annual V

Book Review: 'Fantasy Annual V' edited  by Terry Carr

2 / 5 Stars

When DAW’s ‘The Year’s Best Fantasy’ series launched in 1975, and proved successful, the market was established for yearly ‘Best Of’ anthologies for fantasy literature, although the output of so-called ‘adult’ fantasy literature arguably was very limited back in those days.

Pocket Books decided to launch their own anthology series, titled ‘The Year’s Finest Fantasy’ in 1978; starting in 1981, the title was shortened to simply ‘Fantasy Annual’. A total of five volumes were released before the series was discontinued.

“Fantasy Annual V’ (264 pp), the last volume in the series, was released in November, 1982. The cover artist is unknown. The contents all were previously published in 1981, in sf and fantasy magazines and digests.

Editor Terry Carr brought a different attitude to the Pocket Books series, as compared to that of Lin Carter, the editor of 'The Years Best Fantasy' at DAW Books. 

Carr avoided ‘classic’ or ‘traditional’ fantasy tales featuring, for example, barbarians, evil magicians, Dark Lords, enchanted castles, dragons, dwarves, and goblins. Instead, Carr preferred to showcase stories with a supernatural or mild horror content, particularly 'urban' ghost stories.

My capsule reviews of the entrants in ‘Fantasy Annual V’ :

In Parke Godwin’s ‘The Fire When It Comes’, a young couple share their NYC apartment with the ghost of an embittered actress. Insipid and trite, this is the worst story in the anthology.

George R. R. Martin's ‘Remembering Melody’ explores what happens when that crazy hippie chick from your misspent youth won’t take 'no' for an answer. An effective horror story.

Thomas M. Disch’s ‘The Grown Up’ is a sardonic look at a man who goes to sleep as a 25 year-old, and awakens with the mind of a 10 year-old boy. 

C. J. Cherryh’s ‘The Haunted Tower’ puts a mayor’s mistress into the Tower of London, there to be educated in the Meaning of Life by a succession of historical ghosts. Plodding and unrewarding.

Roger Zelazny’s “And I Only Am Escaped to Tell Thee’, despite its three- page length, is one of the best of his short stories, and the best entry in this anthology.

In Tony Sarowitz’s ‘Dinosaurs on Broadway’, a young women adjusts poorly to life in NYC; her angst is manifested in hallucinations of dinosaurs. The fantasy elements are muted, if barely present.  This is one of the least impressive tales in the anthology.

J. Michael Reaves’s ‘Werewind’ mixes ghosts, the Santa Ana winds, LA's film studio culture, and tosses in a serial killer to boot. Another of the better entrants in the anthology.

Robert Silverberg’s ‘The Regulars’ is a slight tale about patrons of a homely bar....... that never closes.

James Tiptree, Jr (Alice Sheldon) contributes ‘Lirios: A Tale of the Quintana Roo’, about an apparition appearing on the coast of Mexico. Well-written, if not particularly memorable.

Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s ‘Lincoy’s Journey’ deals with a young girl’s adventures in an Asian afterlife.

In Michael Bishop’s ‘The Quickening’, everyone wakes up to discover they have been teleported to a foreign country; the protagonist struggles to deal with this strange turn of events.

Curiously, although Lisa Tuttle’s ‘A Friend in Need’ is advertised on the back cover of Fantasy Annual V, it doesn’t appear in the book (!?). I am familiar with this short story, as it appeared in ‘The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories Series 8’ (DAW, 1982). It’s an unremarkable ‘urban’ fantasy tale, and its failure to appear here in Fantasy Annual V is no calamity. 

Summing up, ‘Fantasy Annual V’ suffers from two weaknesses. One is that, back in 1981, there simply weren’t enough outlets available to accommodate those quality fantasy short stories being produced, and secondly, inflexibility on the part of editor Carr meant that marginal tales made it into the anthology. 

Unless you are adamant about obtaining every volume in the series, this one can be passed by.

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